Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Inconvenient Truth

A film review in The Star:

OIL is the excrement of the devil,” announces the narrator at the start of the documentary, A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.

The documentary certainly doesn’t start on a bright note. Instead, it pounds several depressing facts into the viewer: oil is running out. The world will change irrevocably. Your comfortable modern life will be history.

Yet one is still drawn to the film’s sights and sounds. Archival footage €“ which include humorous TV advertisements from the 1960s €“ gives us a glimpse of the early, optimistic days of petroleum. But then came the fall, and the happy images are replaced by the bleak and apocalyptic sights of abandoned oil fields, with its rusting towers and muddy fields, in places like Baku, Azerbaijan.

The film, made by award-winning journalists and filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, has an impressive array of interviewees, many of them geologists, former oil industry insiders and academics. Gelpke and McCormack rely on their voices €“ there are no celebrity narrators here €“ to explain how the oil industry evolved, how people deluded themselves into believing that oil supply will never run out and how, through market and political forces, people have became addicted to oil, using it for nearly every aspect of their lives.

Oil is an amazing source of energy, says interviewee Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. One barrel of oil will produce as much work as you would get from 12 people working all year.

Unfortunately, human beings are using it far too quickly and carelessly.

A dangerous thing to do since oil is not a renewable source of energy, and its supply will dwindle one day.

One can’t help but feel alarmed when one discovers that the great bulk of the world’s oil supplies was formed in two unique environmental periods of the Earth’s history, and over a period of millions of years.

Yet, human beings are guzzling it up in just over two centuries.

And as the reality of dwindling oil supplies sink in (even if the governments of the world refuse to acknowledge it), the “devilish” side of oil use comes forth: wars, price surges and turmoil in the market and society.

The film goes on to discuss energy sources that could replace oil. But can alternative energy like hydrogen fuels, solar and wind power, and fuel cell technology save mankind from the hole it has dug itself?

No comments: